By Editor Wayne Veysey | Former Evening Standard, Press Association and Goal chief correspondent with 17 years experience of breaking big stories, including exclusives like this
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Chelsea are eyeing a world-record £120million bid for Gareth Bale, Football Insider sources understand.
The Premier League champions regard Monday’s axing of Rafael Benitez as an encouraging sign in their battle to pull off a record-breaking deal for Bale.
Chelsea will face competition for the Welsh superstar from Manchester United, who, as revealed by Football Insider, made an astonishing £120million bid for Bale last summer after Louis van Gaal identified him as a player who could electrify Old Trafford.
At the time, Real did not want to sell Bale even though the offer was £34million more than the sum that smashed the world transfer record when he was bought from Tottenham in the summer of 2013.
But new Real manager Zinedine Zidane admitted on Tuesday morning that the 26-year-old was against the sacking of Benitez.
“I understand that Gareth could be upset by Rafa’s departure because he was a very important coach in his career,” Zidane said at a press conference. “But he is going to receive the same affection from me. He is fundamental for the team and what he has been doing of late for us on the pitch is phenomenal. He will have all my support so that he continues to play well for us.”
Chelsea recognise they need a creative spark and are keen to recruit a proven star who can re-energise a team that has slipped dramatically this season.
A source close to the situation has told Football Insider that the Londoners will be asked to be kept informed about Bale’s position as they target a record-breaking summer bid.
Real signed Bale for £86million in the summer of 2013 and he responded with an outstanding debut season in the capital, culminating in him scoring in the Champions League final.
Bale’s second campaign was less successful and his form came under huge scrutiny from both supporters and the Spanish media in the final months of 2014-15.
But the Welshman has performed impressively in his third season at the Bernabeu, scoring nine league goals and supplying seven assists, the equal-most in the competition this season.
The attacking midfielder has three years remaining on the six-year contract he signed in 2013 and Real continue to regard the 26-year-old as a key figure in their plans.
When asked on Tuesday if he would persist with the BBC front-three of Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, Zidane was emphatic: “Yes, the very clear idea that we have is that we will play with the three strikers.”